The Big Picture: It's almost like we've been here before, and the same principles apply, and... oh, hello there. Didn't see you come in. We were just talking about how the Bobcats are going to play the Knicks for the second time in two nights, and how Larry Brown still refuses to accept the mathematical reality that most three-point attempts are better than 18-foot jumpers off a screen.
Mike D'Antoni's "genius" is really just the "genius" of Stan Van Gundy, or the "genius" of Red Auerbach in different packaging. They seem like totally different coaches, but what they've got in common, at core, is a dedication to the most efficient and valuable shot types in basketball: uncontested shots at the rim, all other shots at or near the rim, and threes. Brown would absolutely agree with those first two, because fast break points and points from close in the paint are the most likely to go in, and at the same time the most likely to result in fouls while in the act of shooting, both of which lead to good results for the offense.
But he seems to have it in his head that shooting threes is necessarily incompatible with shooting at the rim. It isn't, as the Magic deftly prove. It's really just about choices, and I'd argue that a simple adjustment, moving all long-two shots back a couple feet to three-point range, would reap great rewards.
Here's the simple math: leaguewide, shooting from 16-23 feet is, on average, a 39% proposition. Those curls off screens above the elbow that the Cats do so often? Call it anywhere from 36-43%, if you're being generous, and those are league average shooters. But you know what? NBA players are REALLY GOOD shooters. Insanely good, as a group. Do you know what they shoot from three, on average? This year, it's 36%.
So, let's say the Cats suck at shooting threes, and are 30% shooters from distance, which would be a hair ahead of the second-worst three-point shooting team in the league. But for some reason, they're actually very good at shooting midrange shots, and are 45% shooters on all shots from 16-23 feet, which is better than the best team in the NBA right now. You might think that the extra point gained from making threes wouldn't be able to make up that difference. However, their FG% on twos would be .450, and their eFG% on threes would be... drumroll... .450!
In other words, if the Cats were consistently fantastic on long twos and consistently sucky on threes, they'd probably come out even taking either shot, on a shot by shot basis. I think the math would bear out that they'd be better off taking more long twos, because they'd make more of them in absolute terms, and wouldn't give the other team as many fresh possessions off defensive rebounds... but the point stands that even in this hypothetical reality in which 22-foot twos are made at a static 45% rate and 23-foot threes are made at a static 30% rate, it's not a given that twos are the better option.
Even better, in reality, they're better at threes and worse at long twos than that. In reality, even accounting for Stephen Jackson's remarkably good shooting this season (.435 from three) that will probably regress some, the Cats are better off shooting threes than long twos, by a eFG% margin of .585 to .419. What about just ditching the long twos and shooting more threes instead? Take the most efficient, valuable shots, like Red Auerbach did by selecting and coaching players to run fast breaks, or D'Antoni and Van Gundy do by selecting and coaching players to shoot threes combined with shots right at the goal.
Musical Interlude: Nelly -- "Just A Dream"
(Is it just me, or could this be a killer country song, reference to "shorty" and all?)
Key to Victory: Reiterating yesterday's point, it's important for the Bobcats to play the game they want to play, not the game the Knicks force them to play. Also, it would be nice to give Tyrus Thomas more than 12 minutes because even if he's screwing around on offense, he's almost always a positive force on defense.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: The Official Father, Mother, and Brother of Rufus on Fire are in town for the Thanksgiving holiday and have already agreed with me that the poor quality of street signage in the Charlotte metro area is a major problem.